Our research has revealed that science students are interested in work-integrated learning (WIL), but we need to communicate more if we want them to actively engage. Here are three recommendations from staff who design and deliver WIL in science on how we can communicate better.
We interviewed staff who design, deliver and lead WIL in science to find out how they communicate and motivate students to engage with WIL. These WIL specialists told us that science students are ‘dead keen’ on WIL and employability and see WIL as an opportunity to gain skills and experience, differentiate themselves from other students, and test-drive different career options. But they also said that when WIL is optional, only about 10 percent of students actively engage.
For students to engage in optional WIL, they need to know about WIL opportunities, and they need to prioritise it over other things. Put another way, they need to sacrifice something else – another unit, part-time work, leisure time, the list goes on.
So what do the WIL specialists recommend?
1. Make sure students know what is out there
To increase engagement, we need to make sure students know about the different WIL opportunities available to them. The WIL specialists told us that just emailing students about opportunities is not enough – they need to hear about these opportunities from their lecturers, and from tutors and lab demonstrators, as well as from faculty WIL coordinators and Careers Services.
2. Tell students why WIL matters
It’s not enough to tell students about the opportunities available, we also need to tell them why WIL is important. If we want students to choose WIL over other things, they need to see the value and relevance. We need to talk to students about what they will get out of WIL, and how it will help them.
3. Get everyone on board
According to the WIL specialists, we all need to talk to students about WIL – different students get the message in different ways, so we need to make sure it is as easy as possible for them to hear about WIL. Lecturers, tutors, employers and industry partners, and other students should all be enlisted to share the importance of WIL.